Sidenotes to a conference...
A year has passed, it's conference-season again. It is time for the cream of our profession to have a get-together, and pave the way to the future. For those, who are less familiar with the subject: this is the conference, where the Hungarian banks and their suppliers show their progress, and share their view on the possibilities of evolution.
I arrived with great expectations, but at the end, I was a bit disappointed. Based on the subjects, I was hoping for more interesting content, but I don't want to look insatiable. Let's look into the main threads, so the general public can get a hint of how the decision makers view the problems of the present and the solutions of the future:
Y-generation, whatever it means
In my last post, I wrote about the emerging youth, who organize their whole life online. The conference's main contribution was to raise some attention to the different needs of this group of customers. Unfortunately, as I watched the faces, the audience didn't really get the idea. I got a strange feeling: for them, solving the problem of handling these needs equals to "make some trendy user interface".
Upon preparing visually stunning solutions, the main problem of these users being mono-channel users is left unhandled - there's a tendency to forget their mentality of "if it's not available on the internet, it is not available at all". The question is left unanswered: even if we can use some CRM magic to show a relevant product to the customer, how can he / she buy it if it's not available the internet bank? The term "mono-channel customer" means, these customer don't go into, or do not want to go into the branch, nor want to pick up the phone to talk with the call-center!
Web2, web2, web2
It's interesting that the financial sector sees the web2 only as a collection of social network and information-sharing portals. It was funny to see who can chant the magic Twitter-Facebook-Iwiw combo more times in 5 minutes.
It was revealed on the conference, that none of these (marketing) techniques are used currently by any of the Hungarian banks. It's not by coincidence, of course. The communication of the financial sector is on the traditional branch of marketing style - it literally hates everything that is not strictly controlled, but in the same time can get to many people. The Hungarian situation is especially hard to grasp, since the user generated posts are mainly deeply negative, so there isn't a chance for a marketing guys to get approval from their bosses to create a company Twitter / Facebook account.
In my opinion, the banks are backing the wrong horse. I firmly believe, that having an open conversation with the customers, having the problems raised and solving them transmits a positive message. "The bank is listening to your voice, cares about your problems, and solves them as much as they can be solved." A refreshing example: there was a problem showed on the Loan Victims' blog regarding a mistake of a credit application - the customer care looked into it, solved, the resolution got posted at the same place. Isn't this what we call positive feedback?
Let's face it: nobody has any clue how to use these platforms generally, and even worse, how can the internet bank benefit from them. It's not considered a web2 presence to watch the complaint-blogs and acting to the posts. It is time to take the initiative!
I always get nervous when this topic is on. In the last four years of my attendance (and before it, too) we constantly chewing this rubber-band. Security is at the level of constraining usability, but this doesn't seem to cut it for some. Every internet bank has SMS / token / chipcard signature (and/or), everywhere the communication is on secure lines, experts (meaning paid hackers) are continuously enhancing the systems, there wasn't a technical level security breach in years (phishing is considered social hacking, but since the introduction of two-level signatures, this problem is solved). In terms of internet bank, security is not a question since it is given.
Despite all of this, the conference's message was that security is still considered by the decision makers to be the greatest obstacle of "breakthrough". I believe, it is time to face the facts: the technological solutions' further enhancement is not paying off, a radically new approach is needed: instead of further raising security, the feeling of security should be enhanced. My argument was confirmed in Bell Reseach's presentation: users regard the security of internet banks' good, but see security is the biggest problem - you feel the contradiction?
My private research show that the reasons for "not using the internet" and "not using the internet bank" are having the same roots, since the concepts are overlaping: "since the internet is not safe - the internet bank isn't safe as well". Breaking this chain of thought will be a very important task - but it is a task for the future.
At the end of the conference, there was a round-table discussion on the development tasks of the near future. The representative of the biggest banks pointed to two main areas: introduction of mobile banking and the raising of the selling potential of the internet bank.
Although I praise the progression, both areas will generate disappointment, since these tools are not able to live up to the expectations - since the expectations are misaligned. The conference got me convinced: we got to a point where we have to take a big breath, and have to re-think where the optimal alignment of the banks' goals, the users' satisfaction levels and technical solutions' role should be.